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Landscape structure shapes carnivore-mediated seed dispersal kernels

Abstract

Context

Seed dispersal is recognized as having profound effects on the distribution, dynamics and structure of plant populations and communities. However, knowledge of how landscape structure shapes carnivore-mediated seed dispersal patterns is still scarce, thereby limiting our understanding of large-scale plant population processes.

Objectives

We aim to determine how the amount and spatial configuration of forest cover impacted the relative abundance of carnivorous mammals, and how these effects cascaded through the seed dispersal kernels they generated.

Methods

Camera traps activated by animal movement were used for carnivore sampling. Colour-coded seed mimics embedded in common figs were used to know the exact origin of the dispersed seed mimics later found in carnivore scats. We applied this procedure in two sites differing in landscape structure.

Results

We did not find between-site differences in the relative abundance of the principal carnivore species contributing to seed dispersal patterns, Martes foina. Mean dispersal distance and the probability of long dispersal events were higher in the site with spatially continuous and abundant forest cover, compared to the site with spatially aggregated and scarcer forest cover. Seed deposition closely matched the spatial patterning of forest cover in both study sites, suggesting behaviour-based mechanisms underpinning seed dispersal patterns generated by individual frugivore species.

Conclusions

Our results provide the first empirical evidence of the impact of landscape structure on carnivore-mediated seed dispersal kernels. They also indicate that seed dispersal kernels generated strongly depend on the effect that landscape structure exerts on carnivore populations, particularly on habitat-use preferences.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by Integrated Program of IC&DT (1/SAESCTN/ALENT-07-0224 FEDER-001755). Ronnie Lendrum, greatly improved the quality of the English in the manuscript and two anonymous referees provided helpful comments which greatly improved a previous version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to José M. Herrera.

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Herrera, J.M., de Sá Teixeira, I., Rodríguez-Pérez, J. et al. Landscape structure shapes carnivore-mediated seed dispersal kernels. Landscape Ecol 31, 731–743 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-015-0283-4

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Keywords

  • Dispersal patterns
  • Ecosystem function
  • Frugivorous mammals
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Managed habitats
  • Mediterranean ecosystem
  • Seed mimics